Sermon 354. A Sermon For The Week Of Prayer
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, JANUARY 6, 1861, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT EXETER HALL, STRAND.
"Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." Colossians 4:2. THOSE of you who constantly listen to my voice are aware that on the first Sabbath of the year I always receive of a venerableClergyman-a veteran warrior in the Lord's hosts-a verse of Scripture which I accept as my New Year's text, and which afterbeing printed becomes the motto of my congregation for the following year. It is somewhat amazing that my venerable friendshould have sent me in the envelope about a month ago this text. He knew nothing of the proposition for a week of prayer.I do not know that it had been even determined upon at that date-certainly neither to his knowledge nor to mine-and I couldnot but help thinking when I opened my envelope, and saw what was to be my text, that he had been directly and specially guidedof God, that my text might be in keeping with the engagements of the week. "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same withthanksgiving." How greatly do I rejoice that the Churches are awakened to prayer. My honored and venerable Brother will thismorning stand up in his village Church, lift up holy hands, and bid his people join in the common supplication, and I feelbut too happy as his younger Brother in Christ-as but a babe compared to so experienced a pastor-to follow his example instirring you up that you, too, as a great host, may join with the general company of the faithful and besiege the Throne ofGrace till you carry the gates of Heaven by storm, and obtain the mercy which both you and the world so much require! Without further preface, let me observe that there are three exhortations in the text connected with prayer. The first iscontinue; the second is watch; and the third is give thanks. "Continuance" sits like Moses on the top of the hill, while Watchingand Thanksgiving, like Aaron and Hur, hold up its hands. I. And first, in regard to prayer, the Apostle says "continue."
Be you not, O you intercessors with God for men-be you not as those whose goodness is as the morning cloud and as the earlydew. Do not begin to pray, and then suddenly cease your supplications. That will prove an ignorance as to the value of themercy which you seek, and a lack of earnestness asto your obtaining it. How many there are who, under a powerful sermon, or during a trying Providence, have bent their kneessuddenly in hasty prayer! They have risen from their knees, and they have forgotten what manner of men they were. Take awaythe whip from them, and they haveceased to run; remove from them the tempest, and they have ceased to fly before it; they have ceased to pray when God hasceased to smite! O Church of God, imitate not these heathen men and publicans! Wake not yourself up to a sudden fit of prayer,and then return again to yoursloth; stir not yourself a moment from your bed to throw your heavy head back again upon your pillow, but continue in supplication-ceasenot to pray!
There is a great distinction between the prayer of the real convert and the merely convicted sinner. The merely convictedsinner, terrified by the Law, calls but once; the awakened heart, renewed of the Holy Spirit, never ceases to cry until themercy comes! A few days ago, by the seaside, on thecoast of the Isle of Wight, a woman thought she heard, in the midst of the howling tempest, the voice of a man. She listened.It was repeated. She strained her ears again, and she caught, amid the crack of the blast, and the thundering of the winds,another cry for help. She ran atonce to the lifeguards who launched their boat, and some three poor mariners who were clinging to a mast were saved! Hadthat cry been but once and not again, either she might have doubted as to whether she had heard it at all, or else she wouldhave drawn the melancholy conclusionthat they had been swept into the watery waste, and that help would have come too late. So when a man prays but once, eitherwe may think that he cries not at all, or else that his desires are swallowed up in the wild waste of his sins, and he himselfis sucked down into the vortexof destruction. If the Church of God shall offer prayer this week, and then shall cease to be in earnest, we shall thinkher never to have meant her prayers! If she shall but now and then start up, and make her supplications, we shall write herdown as a hypocrite intent for amoment upon keeping appearances, but afterwards relapsing into her lukewarm Laodicean condition! The exhortation of my text,I think, stands in contrast, then, to the transient prayer which is often offered by ungodly men. Continue in prayer; do notpray once, and have done with it,but continuein it.
I think further, that the exhortation to continue may be put in opposition to the common dealings of many with God, who prayand pause, and pray and pause-are earnest and then cool, earnest and colder still. There is a sharp frost-a rapid thaw, andthen a frost again. Their spiritual state isas variable as our own weather. A shower, sunshine, mist, shower, sunshine again! They are everything by turns, and nothinglong. There are too many Churches which are just of this character. See them one week, you would believe they would carryall before them. and convert the townor village in which they are located; see them next week and they are, "As sound asleep as a church," which is a commonProverb, a church being too often the sleepiest thing in all the world! Sometimes they ran and they did run well-what didhinder them? But they stopped, theypaused, they looked about them, and after a while they ran again-but they moved not swiftly enough to be able to make upthe time lost when they were standing still!
Now I am afraid our Churches have for a considerable period been just in this state-have been sometimes hot, and sometimescold. Look at our revivals everywhere-the American revival, it is a great wave and then dry sand. Look at the Irish revival.I fear that in the end, it will come to thesame amount. Almost everywhere there have been great stirrings, as if a holy fire had fallen, and was about to burn up allthe stubble-all men stand in wonder at it, but it ceases and a few ashes remain! The fact is, the Church is not healthy; shehas intermittent fits of health,she has starts of energy, she has paroxysms of agony; but she does not agonize for souls-she is not always earnest, sheis not always busy. Well did Paul need to say to this age as to his own, "Continue in prayer." Not one week, but every week!Not for a season, but at allseasons! Be you always crying out unto the Lord your God!
In the black country of England, you who have traveled will have observed fires which never in your recollection have beenquenched. I believe there are some which have been kept burning for more than 50 years, both night and day, every day in theyear. They are never allowed to go out, because, weare informed, the manufacturers would find it amazingly expensive again to get the furnace to its needed red heat. Indeed,the blast furnace, I suppose would all but ruin the proprietor if it were allowed to go out once every week. He would probablynever get it up to its right heatuntil the time came for letting the fire out again. Now, as with these tremendous furnaces which must burn every day orelse they will be useless-they must be kept burning or else it will be hard to get them up to the proper heat-so ought itto be in all the Churches of God!They should be as flaming fires both night and day, caldron after caldron of the coal of earnestness should be put to thefurnace, all the fuel of earnestness which can be gathered from the hearts of men should be cast upon the burning pile. Theheavens should be always red with theglorious illumination, and then, then you might expect to see the Church prospering in her Divine business, and hard heartsmelted before the fire of the Spirit!
Continue, then, in prayer. Never let your fire go out. But why? Why should the Church always be in prayer? Understand we donot mean by this that men ought to leave their business, forsake their shops, and neglect their household, to be always supplicating.There were some fanatics in the earlyChurch who gave up everything, that they might be always praying. We know what the Apostle would have said to them, fordid he not say, "If any man will not work, neither let him eat"? There are some lazy people who like praying better than working-letthem learn that the Lordaccepts not this at their hands! Did not the Master, even when He was on earth, after He had preached a sermon in SimonPeter's boat-did He not as soon as ever He was done, say to Peter, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for adraught"? He did this to show thatwork, hard work, the hardest of work is quite in keeping with the hearing and the preaching of the Word, and that no manhas any right to forsake his calling to which God has appointed him in His Providence, under pretense of seeking the Lord.Never stain one duty with the blood ofanother. It is quite possible that you may continue in your labor, and yet continue in prayer. You may not always be inthe exercise, but you may always be in the spirit of prayer! If there shall not always be iron in the furnace to melt, yetlet there always be the fire to melt it.If not always shooting the arrow up to Heaven, yet always keep the bow well stringed, so shall you always be archers, thoughnot always shooting! So shall you always be men of prayer, though not always in the exercise of praying.
1. But why should the Church-to come to the question-why should the Church continue in prayer? For several reasons, and thefirst is, God will answer her It is not possible that God should refuse to hear prayer; it is possible for Him to bid thesun stand still, and the moon to stay her monthlymarch; it is possible for Him to bid the waves freeze in the sea-possible for Him to quench the light of the stars in eternaldarkness-but it is not possible for Him to refuse to hear prayer which is based upon His promise and offered in faith! Hecan reverse Nature, but Hecannot reverse His own Nature, and He must do this before He can forbear to hear and answer prayer! The prayers of God'sChurch are God's intentions-you will not misunderstand me-what God writes in the book of His decree, which no eye can see,that He in process of time writesin the book of Christian hearts where all can see and read! The book of the Believer's desire, if those desires are inspiredof the Holy Spirit, is just an exact copy of the book of the Divine decree. And if the Church is determined today to liftup her heart in prayer for theconversion of men, it is because God determined from before all worlds that men should be converted! Your feeble prayertoday, Brothers and Sisters, can fly to Heaven and awake the echoes of the slumbering decrees of God! Every time you speakto God, your voice resounds beyond thelimits of time. The decrees of God speak to your prayer and cry, "All hail! Brother, all hail! You, too, are a decree!"
Prayer is a decree escaped out of the prison of obscurity, and come to life and liberty among men. Pray, Brothers and Sisters,pray, for when God inspires you, your prayer is as potent as the decrees of God! As His decrees bind the universe with spells,and make the suns obedient to Him-as everyletter of His decree is as a nail, pinning together the pillars of the universe, so are your prayers; they are the pivotson which earth rests; they are the wheels on which Providence revolves; your prayers are like God's decrees struggling tobe born, and to become Incarnate liketheir Lord.
God will, God must answer the prayers of His Church. I think I can see in vision in the clouds, God's register, His file inwhich He puts the prayers of His Church. One after another they have been deposited; He has cast none of them away, and consumednone of them in the fire, but He has put themin His file and smiled as the heap accumulated; and when it shall reach a certain mark which He has set and appointed inHis good pleasure, and the last number of the prayers shall be completed and the blood of Christ shall have bedewed the whole,then will the Eternal speak, and itshall be done-He shall command and it shall stand fast! "Let there be light," He says, and there shall be light at once."Let the Kingdom come," and the Kingdom shall come; he who tarries shall be put out of the way, he who hinders shall be castdown, and trod as the mire of thestreets. Up, Church of God, in all the glory of your prayer, put on your vestments and begin to plead through Jesus Christ,your Great High Priest; enter within the veil today, for God hears you and He will surely answer you!
2. There is a second reason why the Church should continue in prayer, namely, that by her prayers the world will most certainlybe blessed. The other evening in visiting the sick, I saw at a distance, down a long street, the bright light of a fire. Ina moment or so the flames seemed to yield, butagain it sprang up and lit the heavens! Again it became dim and still dimmer. As we walked along, we said, "They have gotthe fire under control; the engines have been at work; how soon it is out!" I compare this to the Church's work upon the world.The world is, as it were, wrappedin flames of the fire of sin, and the Church of God must quench those flames. Whenever we meet together, and are more earnestin prayer, angels might well see in the distance the flames dimmed, and the fire giving way. Whenever we cease our exertionsand become languid in ourefforts, the flame gets the upper hand of us, and once more, spirits from the far-off world can see the fiery mantle surroundingour globe. Hand up your buckets, Sirs! Every man to the pumps! Now strip to it, everyone of you, work while you have lifeand strength! Now each man tohis knees, for it is on our knees that we overcome! Each man to his station and to his work, and let us continue to passfrom hand to hand the quenching water till every spark shall be put out, and there shall be a new Heaven and a new earth whereindwells righteousness! To stopwhile but one part of the fabric is on fire would be to condemn the whole! To pause until the last spark shall be extinct,would be to give up the world to the devouring element! Continue, then, in prayer, till the world is wholly saved, and Christis universal King!
3. Thirdly, continue in prayer, because souls shall be saved as the result of your entreaties. Can you stand on the beacha moment-you can scarcely see, but yet you may discern by the lights of lanterns, some brave men launching the lifeboat. Itis out-they have taken their seats; helmsman androwers, all strong hearts, determined to save their fellows or to perish! They have gotten far away, now, into the midstof the billows, and we have lost sight of them. But in spirit we will take our stand in the midst of the boat. What a searolled in just then! If she were notbuilt for such weather, she would surely have been overturned. Look at that tremendous wave and how the boat leaps likea sea bird over its crest! See now again-it has plunged into a dreary furrow, and the wind, like some great plow, turns upthe water on either side as though itwere clods of mold! Surely the boat will find her grave and be buried in the sheet of foam-but no-she comes out of it andthe dripping men draw a long breath! But the mariners are discouraged; they have strained themselves bending to yonder oars,and they would turn back, forthere is small hope of living in such a sea, and it is hardly possible that they will ever reach the wreck. But the bravecaptain cries out, "Now, my bold lads, for God's sake, send her on! A few more pulls of the oar, and we shall be alongside!The poor fellows will be able to holdon a minute or two longer; now pull as for dear life." See how the boat leaps! See how she springs as though she were aliving thing, a messenger of mercy intent to save! Again, the captain says "Once more, once again and we will do it"-no, shehas been dashed aside from the shipfor a moment, that sea all but stove her in, but the helmsman turns her around and the captain cries, "Now, my boys, oncemore!" And every man pulls with lusty sinews, and the poor shipwrecked ones are saved!
Yes, it is just so with us right now! Long have Christ's ministers, long has Christ's Church pulled with the Gospel lifeboat-letus pull again! Every prayer is a fresh stroke of the oar, and all of you are oarsmen! Yes, you feeble women confined to yourbeds, shut up in your chambers-you whocan do nothing else but pray-you are all oarsmen in this great boat! Pull yet once more, and this week let us drive theboat ahead and it may be it will be the last tremendous struggle that shall be required, for sinners shall be saved, and themultitude of the redeemed shall beaccomplished! Not we, but Divine Grace shall do the work, yet is it ours to be workers for God!
4. But continue in prayer once more, because prayer is a great weapon of attack against the error and wickedness of the world.I see before me the strong bastions of the castle of Sin. I mark the host of men who have surrounded it. They have broughtthe battering ram, they have dashed it many timesagainst the gate; it has fallen with tremendous force against it, and you would have supposed that the timbers would besplit asunder the first time. But they are staunch and strong; he who made them was a cunning architect; he who depends uponthem for his protection is one whoknew how to make the gate exceedingly massive-is one who knew the struggle full well which he would have to endure-Princeof Darkness as he is! If he knew of his defeat, yet well he knew how to guard against it if it were possible. But I see thisponderous battering ram as ithas been hurled with giant force again and again upon the gate, and has as often seemed to recoil before the massive bars.Many of the saints of God are ready to say, "Let us withdraw the instrument; let us take away the besieging armament; we shallnever be able to storm thiscastle; we shall never effect an entrance." Oh, be not cowards, Sirs, be not cowards. The last time the battering ram thunderedin its course, I saw the timbers shake! The very gate did reel and the posts did rock to and fro-see now, they have movedthe earth around their sockets!Hell is howling from within because it knows how soon its end must come! Now, Christian warriors, use your battering ramsonce more, for the gates begin to shake and the walls are tottering. They will reel, they will fall before long-one more blowand yet another and another, andanother, and as Israel went up over the walls of Jericho of old, so shall we soon go up over the fallen ruins of the wallsof the castle of Sin and Satan! The Church does not know how near her victory is-we do not believe how much God is doing-butlet the Holy Spirit for oncegive us a little more faith, and in confidence that we are nearing the victory-we shall continue in prayer! Turn not backwhen we have all but overcome, continue still, even till the end shall be, and the voice shall be heard, "Hallelujah, it isdone! The kingdoms of this worldhave become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ."
II. The second exhortation is WATCH.
Watch, for you will soon be drowsy if you watch not Joshua fought the Amalekites, and I never read that his hands were weary,though the battle occupied a very long day. Moses was on the mountain in prayer, and his hands grew heavy because prayer issuch spiritual work and we are so un-spiritualthat the tendency of prayer upon our nature will be to make us drowsy unless we watch. It is ill-praying, when we are drowsy.It is ill for a Church that is not half-awake to be in supplication. All eyes must be opened! The judgment, the imagination,the hope, the memory-all mustbe in full vigor, or else we can scarcely hope that prayer shall be successful. I think I see the Church as I fear she isnow. There she is upon her knees, with hands clasped. She mutters a few words. Her head droops, for she is weary. Again shepleads, and yet again her head iswell nigh fallen on her bosom-she is a sleeping Church in prayer! Am I too severe in this picture? I believe it is true.I think there are some members of the Church thoroughly awake, but they are few. There are multitudes of professors who donot feel the value of souls. Thereare many who will meet in the room of this lower hall and meet in our own chapels, also, to pray who are nevertheless notawake, not awake to the world's necessities, not awake to Christ's Glory, not awake to the power of the Gospel-nor awake totheir own responsibilities, so thatthey will pray- but pray and sleep! Here, then, we see the value of the exhortation of the Apostle-"Continue in prayer andwatch in the same."
But watch for another reason-because as soon as ever you begin to pray, there will be enemies who will commence the attack.The Church never was earnest yet without sooner or later discovering that the devil was in earnest, too. The devil has hadan easy time of it up till the last six or sevenyears, for the Church has been going on her old-fashioned way doing nothing at all! There was very little abuse of ministers-ministerswere getting to be very respectable men, and very little abuse of any section of Christians-they were all getting to be veryeasy and loveablesort of people. But as sure as the Church, or any section of the Church, shall be in earnest, they will be abused! Neverthink you are good for anything till the world finds fault with you; never reckon that you have got a success unless manybegin to cry you down! I always thinkthat an article against you, if you have sought with an honest conscience to discharge your duty in the sight of God, isone of the highest compliments the press can pay you. Consider it as such! Never expect that the world will be friends withthe Church. Indeed the world will befriendly enough with the Church if the Church will not do her duty. If there were a sentinel set to guard a post againstsurprise; if you knew him to be a very great friend of those who meant to make the attack, I think you would suspect verysoon that he was in collusion with theenemy. No, Sirs, they who fight Christ's battles, must be men who think as well of the world as the world thinks of them-thatis to say, who have no love to the world's esteem and the world no love to them! Martin Luther used to say, "The world givesme a very bad character, butthere is no love lost between us; I can give to it as bad a character as ever it gives to me." The world says "quack, pretender,fanatic!" Be it so-be it so, O world-you have no power to honor Christ's ministers, except by upbraiding them. There is nopower in the wicked tohonor Christ's minister, except they are either trembling before him, or else laughing at him. Either way, we will gratefullyaccept the honor and write it down as being a proof of our success.
But watch, O Church of Christ, watch; a struggle awaits you as sure as ever you are earnest in prayer. In riding along thesouth coast of England, you may have noticed the old Martello towers in constant succession very near to each other. Theyare the result of an old scheme of protecting ourcoast from our ancient enemies. It was supposed that as soon as ever a French ship was seen in the distance, the beaconwould be fired at the Martello tower and then, across old England, wherever her sons dwelt, there would flash the fiery signalnews that the enemy was at hand, andevery man would seize the weapon that was next to him to dash the invader from the shore. Now we need that the Church ofChrist should be guarded with Martello towers of sacred watchers who shall day and night look out for the attack of the enemy.For the enemy will come. If hecomes not when we are prayerless, he will surely come when we are prayerful! He will show the cloven hoof as soon as everwe show the bended knee! If our motto is "Prayer," his watchword will be "Fierce attack." Watch, then, while you continuein prayer.
But yet again-watch while you pray for propitious events which may help you in the answer to your prayer. I have known seacaptains, when they have got their ships loaded with coal, and they have wished to come up to London with their cargo, havebeen unable to get down the Tyne and out to sea.If they could have got to sea, they could make their passage. And I have once or twice known a wary captain, being wellupon the watch, manage to sail out of the river just while there was a little change of the wind; and when his fellows haveawakened in the morning, they havemissed him from his berth, and he has stolen a march upon them. He watched and they did not, and having lost the wind, theyhave had to lie in port till he has emptied out his cargo and returned! Now, the Church should watch while she prays to seeif she cannot fulfill her ownprayers, look out for opportunities of doing good, and see if she cannot steal a march upon her enemies. While she has oneeye to Heaven for help, she must have the other eye on earth to look out for opportunities of doing good! God does not alwayssend the Spirit to blow with thesame force. We cannot make the wind blow, but we can spread the sails. So, if we cannot command the Spirit of God, whenthe Spirit of God does come, we can observe His coming and avail ourselves of the glorious opportunity! Watch, then, whileyou pray.
Watch, too, for fresh arguments in prayer Heaven's gate is not to be stormed by one weapon but by many. Spare no arrows, Christian.Watch and see that none of the arms in your armory are rusty. Besiege the Throne of God with a hundred hands, and look atthe promise with a hundred eyes. You have agreat work on hand, for you have to move the arm that moves the world! Watch, then, for every means of moving that arm.See to it that you ply every promise; that you use every argument; that you wrestle with all your might! When you are wrestlingwith an antagonist, you must keepyour eyes on him; you must look to see what he means to do next, or where you can get the next grip at him; see where youcan get a hold, or plant your foot, so that you can throw him down. So wrestle with the Angel of Mercy! Watch while you pray.You cannot wrestle with your eyesshut, nor can you prevail with God unless your own soul is in a watchful state. O Spirit of God, awaken the Church and helpher to watch while she prays!
But one other remark- watch for the answers to your prayers. When you post a letter to a friend, requesting a favor, you watchfor an answer. When you pray to God for a favor, you do not expect Him to hear you, some of you. If the Lord were to hearsome of your prayers, you would be surprised! Ido believe that if God should send to you what you have asked for, you would be quite astonished! Sometimes when I havemet with a special answer to prayer, and have told it, some have said-"is it not amazing!" Not at all, it would be amazingif it were notso! God says-"Ask andyou shall receive." If I should ask and notreceive, it would be amazing. "Seek and you shall find." If you seek and do notfind, it is not only amazing, but I think it is contradictory to God's Word! The Church has but to ask, and she shall receive.She has but to knock, and thedoor of mercy shall be opened. But we do not believe this! We fritter away God's promises and clip the edge of them, andthen we go to God in prayer and we think that prayer is a very holy exercise-but we do not think that God really hears us!Too many professors believe it istheir duty to pray, but really they are not so enthusiastic as to think that God actually listens and sends them what theyask for! A man who should say that he knew that God heard his prayers, is in some quarters looked upon as an enthusiast. Andwhat is that but a proof that we donot believe this precious Book? For let the most unprejudiced man be a judge, if this Book does not teach that, "Whateverwe ask in prayer, believing we shall receive," then it does not teach anything at all. And if it is not true that prayer isa power which prevails with God, thenshut this Book; it is not worthy of any confidence, for it does plainly say that which you say it does not mean!
The fact is, my Brothers and Sisters, the answers to our prayers are always on the way while we are asking! Sometimes theycome while we are yet speaking! Sometimes they delay because we have not prayed as we should; God keeps the mercy back attimes, and puts it out at compound interest because Hemeans to pay it to us, interest and all-whereas if we had it at once, we would miss the interest, which sometimes doublesand trebles the principal! We are never losers by His delays, but always gainers! We ought never to say, even though Providenceshould tell us so, that Godforgets or is unmindful-we never ought to believe that God has been deaf to our cries, or refused to answer our petitions.A true Believer pleading Christ's name and Sacrifice, and asking in faith, must and shall receive that which he asks of God!Now, during the next week, theChurches will meet together to ask for God's blessing, and if that blessing were to come, we should read the MissionaryHeraldand it would begin, "There has been a most surprising awakening throughout all the Churches in such-and-such a country!"That word, "surprising," ought to bestruck out! We should say, "God has been as good as His Word; we asked Him to bless the world, and He has done it! And ifHe does not do it, it will be because we have not asked aright, for as sure as ever we had asked aright, God would have heardus." I believe this to be as trueas a mathematical proposition! If twice two is four, then it is just as true that God hears prayer! I would not look uponit as being a mere notion, a thought, a very fine imagining, or a pretty idea-it is a fact, Sirs-it is a fact! It is a factwhich I could prove in my ownexperience by a hundred instances if this were the time and place to tell them. But I am sure that the people of God universallycould prove that God does hear prayer. As certainly as ever when you write to a friend you get your answer- still more surelyand certainly if you arepleading the name of Christ, God will hear you!
But oh, open your eyes and look for the blessing! Watch for it. Be not so simple as to sow the seed and never look for theharvest. Do not be planting and never looking for fruit. Give up your prayers, or else expect them to be successful. Whenwe were little children, we had a little plot ofground for a garden, and we put our seeds into it. I well recollect how the day after I had put in my seed, I went and scrapedthe soil away to see if it was not growing, as I expected it would have been after a day or so at the very longest, and Ithought the time amazingly longbefore the seed would be able to make its appearance above the ground. "That is childish," you would say. I know it is,but I wish you were childish, too, with regard to your prayers-that you would-when you have put them in the ground, go andsee if they have sprung up! And ifnot at once-be childish in refusing to wait till the appointed time comes-always go back and see if they have begun to sprout.If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you! If you do not expect, you will not have it. God will not hear youunless you believe He willhear you! But if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith.
He will never allow you to think better of Him than He is; He will come up to the mark of your thoughts, and according toyour faith, so shall it be done unto you.
III. I have a third point, but my time is almost gone, therefore let me dwell on it very briefly. The third point is, GIVETHANKS.
Prayer should be mingled with praise. I have heard that in New England after the Puritans had settled there a long while,they used to have very often a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, till they had so many days of fasting, humiliationand prayer, at last a good senator proposed that theyshould change it for once, and have a day of thanksgiving. It is of little use to be always fasting. We ought sometimesto give thanks for mercies received. Now, during this week, there are to be days of prayer. Take care that they are days ofpraise, too! Why should we go to God asmournful beings, who plead piteously with a hard Master who loves not to give? When you give a penny to a beggar in thestreet, you like to see him smile at you-do you not? Is he a crossing-sweeper and you have given him a trifle? He looks extremelygrateful and happy and youthink within yourself, "What a small expense has made that man happy! I think I will buy another pennyworth ofjoy the nexttime I pass by." So you give him all the more because of his thankfulness to you. Now, go not before God with a rueful face,you people of God, as though He hadnever heard you before, and you were about to try a great experiment on One who was exceedingly deaf, and did not like togive you mercies! God is as pleased to give you His blessing as ever you are to receive it; it is as much to His honor asit is to your comfort; He takes morepleasure in your prayers than you do in His answers! Come therefore, boldly. Come with thankfulness in your heart and uponyour lips, and join the hymn of praise with the cry of prayer. Be thankful for what God has done. Look at the past year. Icommend it to your consideration whenyou meet for prayer. Has there been for the last 20 years such a year as the last? If any man had said seven years ago therewould be preaching in St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, we should never have believed him! But it is has been, andit is to be again! If any friendshad said that nearly all the theatres in London would be filled on the Sabbath, "Oh," you would have said, "it is ridiculous,it is an absurd notion!" But it is done, Sirs; it is done.
If any had said to you seven years ago there would have been a congregation of many thousands who, without any drawback innumbers, would always assemble every Sabbath to listen to one minister, you would have said, "Ridiculous! There is no precedentfor it. It is impossible! It is not at allpossible that the Spirit of God can incline a people's heart so long to listen to one man'" It is done, Sirs; by God's Graceit is done! And what are we to do but to give God thanks for it? When we come before Him to ask Him for fresh mercies, letus not be so foolish as to forgetthe past. "Sing unto Him, sing unto Him, sing Psalms unto Him! Come into His Presence with thanksgivings, and show yourselfglad in Him with Psalms-for the Lord is God, and a great King above all gods." So thank Him for the past, and pray to Himfor the future. Thank Him, too, forthe power to pray; thank Him for the privilege of taking the Church's needs before Him. And do still better-thank Him forthe mercy which is to come. Great God, I thank You for Sinim, the land of China, which shall come unto You! I praise You forIndia, which shall receive You! Ipraise You for Ethiopia, which shall stretch out her arms unto You! Great God, today we bless You for what You will do;Your promise is, in the estimation of our faith, as good as the performance itself! We extol and glorify You, for Your righthand, O Lord! Your right hand, O Lord,has dashed in pieces the enemy. You have broken the bow and cut the spear in sunder. You have burned the chariot in thefire. Your right hand, O Lord, has gotten You the victory! Oh come, let us sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!Let us laud and extol Him, for Heis King forever and ever! Say unto Zion, "Your God reigns." Behold, He comes. He comes to judge the world in righteousness,and the people with equity. Rejoice before Him, O you hills, clap your hands, O you cedars! Let the sea roar and the fullnessthereof; the world and all thatdwell therein! Praise Him, you heavens; and you Heaven of heavens; you spirits that stand before His Throne, for He is Godand beside Him there is no God. The whole earth praises You, O God. and all Your creatures bless You forever and ever!
Thus with the censor of prayer and praise, let us be this week like priests of God; and You, great High Priest, take our sacrificeand offer it before Your Father's face!
I close my sermon. O that some here present may lay the subject of prayer to heart this week! Get alone, dear Friends, getalone this week! Pray for your children this week, and groan with God over your ungodly sons and daughters! Pray for yourneighbors this week! Put God to the test! See if Hedoes not open the windows of Heaven upon you. Be much in prayer and you shall be much blessed. And O poor Sinner! You whohave never prayed before-the year of God's re- deemed is come! This is the acceptable day of the Lord; if you seek Him, Hewill be found of you. "Seek you theLord while He may be found. Call you upon Him while He is near." Cry to Him now! Say-
"O Sovereign Grace, my heart subdue.1" Trust Jesus with your soul, and unworthy though you are, your prayer shall he heard.and you shall be able to join with the company of the faithful in praying for others as well as for yourself. God bless youall, for Jesus' sake! Amen.